It is with great sadness that Pfeiffer University announces the death on April 9 of Dr. Joel E. Vickers, who served with distinction as a professor and founding chair of the university’s Department of Health Administration from 1997 to 2016. Vickers was 81.
“Dr. Vickers was a man of undeniable insight and vision,” said Dr. Vernease Miller, Dean of Pfeiffer’s Division of Applied Health Sciences. “At Pfeiffer, he built a health administration program that has become the largest in the Carolinas and one of the largest in the country.”
Pfeiffer offers a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration and a Master of Science in Health Administration. There are also joint degrees that combine health administration with leadership (MHA/MSL) and with business administration (MHA/MBA). All told, almost 3000 people hold Pfeiffer-conferred degrees in health administration. Many of them work as executives in major healthcare systems across the country. Several have pursued doctorates in healthcare administration.
Vickers was responsible for several innovations during his time at Pfeiffer. He combined undergraduate and graduate health programs to form the Department of Health Administration. This enabled the BS in Health Administration program to serve as a feeder for the MHA degree programs.
Vickers also pioneered the use of the cohort model for onsite instructional delivery of Pfeiffer’s graduate programs, which resulted in exponential enrollment growth. At one point, before the popularity of online learning platforms, Pfeiffer faculty were teaching health administration classes at several sites across North Carolina, each hosted by a major healthcare system. “It was his participative leadership that attracted uniquely qualified and industry-experienced faculty to create a team willing to travel Monday through Thursday all over North Carolina to deliver a competitive program,” Miller said.
While at Pfeiffer, Vickers designed comparative international health trips to Canada, the UK, Germany, Austria, France and Liberia.
“These international travel opportunities offer unique exposure to healthcare settings around the world that gives Pfeiffer graduates strategic advantage in the workplace,” Miller said. “It takes energy to single-handedly brand a department that enjoys a solid reputation for preparing transformational leaders that are shaping the future of healthcare locally, nationally and globally.”
Also among Vickers’ innovations at Pfeiffer is the university’s participation in the Allied Regional Skills Partnership. The partnership aims to create innovative solutions that address allied health workforce shortages throughout Mecklenburg County and across the state.
Vickers enjoyed a long and prestigious career in health care administration prior to his coming to Pfeiffer. He was a tenured member of the faculty at East Carolina University, and he served as an adjunct associate professor at UNC Charlotte.
He worked as Deputy Director for AHEC, the Charlotte Area Health Education Center.
He served eight years in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot. He served since 1985 as a Sunday school teacher and trustee at Matthews United Methodist Church.
Dr. Vickers was beloved by students and faculty because of his warm and inviting spirit, and his passion for people.
Vickers “sincerely cared,” Miller said. “His unselfish caring and steady hand of encouragement freed faculty to pursue their own passions and encouraged students to excel beyond perceived limitations and current job status. The value of these contributions cannot be measured or compensated. Nevertheless, they are the measure of the man.”
Vickers holds several degrees from the UNC-Chapel Hill, including Dr. P.H. He is survived by four children: Scott, Danny, Kevin, and Gloria. He leaves behind several grandchildren and a great-grandson. He was predeceased by his wife, Jeannette, and his son, Kevin.
Final arrangements are not yet available. Pfeiffer will communicate them when they are.
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.